VR Headsets Are Growing In Popularity, But So Are Cases Of Online Harassment Using The Technology

As VR headsets get more and more commonplace, with many being purchased as gifts for young individuals, a new form of online harassment becomes increasingly prominent, especially around Facebook/Meta VR tech, as reported by Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Holiday-time has just passed us by, the new year has finally begun, and Betty White has passed at 99 years of age, after having lived a full life. That last part is not at all relevant to literally anything else in the article, but it’s still significant and I’m still very sad about it having happened. Now, back to the article: VR headsets have been around as an accessible piece of tech hardware for quite a while, and their commodification is becoming even more obvious by the day. We’re at a point where headsets and associated games are even affordable, if bought second-hand, and would cost an individual perhaps the same amount as any other gaming console. Devs are also bringing their A game to the new medium, providing games that fully utilize the interactive visual experience granted to customers and players. It’s the sort of futuristic technology that children from even the early 2000’s only dreamed of. However, since having nice things is asking for too much in this world, there are some caveats; some more severe than others.

With quite literally all forms of online interaction, there always exists a threat of insensitive and abusive content being encountered. Whether it be racist comments, lewd remarks, or “jokes” ranging on sexism and pedophilia, the internet isn’t exactly the safest place for young, impressionable minds to be. The likes of YouTube make up for such potential issues by setting up precautionary measures: videos that feature content for children (collectively titled YouTube Kids), have comments blocked on them so as to prevent negative encounters. In fact, many desktop or smartphone based internet interactions can be mediated or controlled by various features already built into these devices. This is the sort of luxury that VR headsets do not provide.

Headsets don’t have parental controls, they don’t have the ability to block certain websites, and they certainly don’t have any filters. While even the likes of Reddit have moderators for individual subreddits, therefore providing some element of control, VR channels are often freely accessible by any number of individuals. Ultimately, VR may be very enticing technology, but it needs to be worked at to a point where games and experiences can be enjoyed by everyone in a safe, reasonable space.

Read next: A survey shows that big tech companies are facing trust issues from their users, with Facebook at the top of the list
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